Six Senate seats up for grabs today

Six Senate seats up for grabs today

• Chairman-hopeful Gilani to contest against PTI-backed Mehrban in Islamabad
• Balochistan lawmakers to elect three, KP to vote in two senators
• By-elections in 23 NA, provincial assembly constituencies to be held on April 21

ISLAMABAD: National Assembly lawmakers and MPAs from Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will elect six senators in a by-election, being held on the vacant seats of the upper house of parliament today.

Besides a seat from Islamabad, five seats — three from Balo­chistan and two from Sindh — fell vacant after the occupants were elected to the national and provincial assemblies.

PPP leader Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani is contesting the election to regain his seat from Islamabad which had fallen vacant following his victory as an MNA in the Feb 8 general elections. Mr Gilani will face Chaudhry Ilyas Mehrban of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) in a one-on-one contest for which polling will be held in the National Assembly hall from 10am to 4pm.

These six seats had fallen vacant under Article 223 of the Constitution which bars dual membership. As per its sub-section 4, if a member of either house of parliament or a provincial assembly becomes a candidate for a second seat, which he may not hold concurrently with his first seat, then his first seat becomes vacant as soon as he is elected to the second seat.

Mr Gilani, who had taken oath as MNA on Feb 29 after winning the NA seat from Multan and voted for PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif during the election of the prime minister on March 3, is being tipped as the next Senate chairman as per the power-sharing formula agreed between the PPP and the PML-N to form a government.

Gilani eyes top slot

Though there has been no official announcement that Mr Gilani is the candidate of the newly formed eight-party ruling coalition for the top Senate office, the fact that no one from the PML-N submitted papers against him gives credence to such reports. The PML-N has a clear majority in the National Assembly where polling will be held for the election on the Senate seat from Islamabad and, therefore, could have easily won the seat. The JUI-F has also announced that it will support Mr Gilani in Islamabad and, in response, the PPP will support the party-backed candidates in the Balochistan Assembly.

Chaudhry Ilyas Mehrban, a veteran PTI member, had contested the National Assembly seat from Islamabad in the 2013 elections, which he lost to PML-N’s Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry.

KP, Balochistan seats

The Sindh Assembly seats had fallen vacant after the resignation of PPP’s Nisar Khuhro and Jam Mehtab Dahar, who had already been elected as members of the Sindh Assembly. Others on the list include Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, who won a National Assembly seat; Sarfraz Bugti and Prince Ahmed Omar who won Balochistan Assembly seats.

Mr Bugti, who had taken the oath as the caretaker interior minister in August, had resigned in December last year to contest election for the provincial assembly seat. He is the Balochistan CM now.

Dysfunctional senate

The total strength of the Senate has been 100, including 23 members each from the four federating units, and four each from erstwhile Fata and Islamabad.

The 23 seats allocated to a province comprise 14 general seats, four reserved for women, four for technocrats, and one for a minority member. The Senate has already become dysfunctional after the retirement of half its members on March 11 following their six-year term.

Against this backdrop, the Election Commission of Pakistan had issued a schedule for the election of 48 new senators — 11 each from all the four provinces on general and technocrats seats, two from Islamabad and two minority members from Punjab and Sindh. The polling will take place in all four provincial legislatures and the NA on April 2.

April 21 by-election on 23 seats

On the other hand, the by-election will be held on 23 national and provincial assemblies seats on April 21, according to the election watchdog.

Besides six National Assembly seats, 17 provincial assembly constituencies — 12 in Punjab, two each in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, and one in Sindh — will also go to polls.

The returning officers will issue public notices on March 15 and submission of nomination papers will start the following day for three days.

Five of the six National Assembly seats for which by-polls are to be held had been won by President Asif Ali Zardari, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur.

President Zardari had won the NA-207 (Shaheed Benazirabad) seat, but had to vacate it in light of Article 43(2) of the Constitution, which reads “The president shall not be a candidate for election as a member of [Majlis-e-Shoora (parliament)] or a provincial assembly; and, if a member…his seat [in parliament] …shall become vacant on the day he enters upon his office.

PPP Chairman Bilawal had won NA-194 (Larkana) and NA-196 Kambar Shahdadkot seats. He decided to retain his seat from Larkana and the by-election will be held in NA-196. In Punjab, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who had won two National Assembly and one provincial Assembly seat, has retained the NA-123 (Lahore) seat. The by-poll will be held in NA-132 (Kasur) and PP-158 (Lahore).

Punjab CM Maryam Nawaz had won both national and provincial assembly seats in Lahore. She retained the PP-159 seat and now the by-election will take place in NA-119 vacated by her. Likewise, KP CM Ali Amin Gandapur won NA-44 and PK-113 in Dera Ismail Khan.

He retained his provincial assembly seat and the vacated NA-44 seat is now up for grabs. In NA-8 (Bajaur) and PK-22 (Bajaur), polls were postponed due to the death of a contesting candidate; these seats are also up for grabs. PK-91 in Kohat will also go to the polls.

Twelve constituencies in Punjab where the by-polls will be held include PP-22, (Chakwal-Talagang), PP-32 (Gujarat), PP-36 (Wazirabad), PP-54 (Narowal), PP-93, (Bhakkar), PP-139, (Sheikhupura), PP-147, (Lahore), PP-149, (Lahore), PP-158, (Lahore), PP-164, (Lahore), PP-266 (Rahim Yar Khan) and PP-290, (Dera Ghazi Khan).

Elections will also be held in PB-20, (Khuzdar) and PB-22, (Lasbela) in Balochistan and PS-80 (Dadu) in Sindh.

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